Secrets of Ancient Egypt Revealed through Modern Science in Exhibit at Baylor's Mayborn Museum Complex

May 27, 2011

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A 16-year-old Egyptian girl who lived 2,300 years ago could not have imagined today's CT Scans. But because of the impact such technology has had on archeology, much has been learned about the mummified mystery teen -- all without ever unwrapping her.

That mummy -- dubbed "Annie" by those who study her -- and her sarcophagus will be part of a new interactive exhibition that opens at Baylor University's Mayborn Museum Complex this weekend. The traveling exhibition -- LOST EGYPT: ANCIENT SECRETS, MODERN SCIENCE -- explores how the lives and culture of ancient Egyptians are being uncovered in new ways, thanks to modern science and technology.

The exhibition is produced by the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio. It opens Saturday, May 28, and runs through Sept. 5.

"This artifact-rich exhibit with its participatory learning component is exactly the type of experience we are pleased to offer our visitors of all ages," said Dr. Ellie Caston, director of Baylor University's Mayborn Museum Complex.

These days, ground-penetrating radar is used to find lost Egyptian cities, such as one near Cairo, said Terry White, exhibit installation supervisor at the Center of Science and Industry. Mummies can be studied through soft-tissue and skeletal scanned images, rather than by unwrapping or disturbing the remains.

CT scans and forensic reconstructions of the faces of Annie -- who was found on the banks of the Nile --and three other female mummies will be on display, as will animal mummies and funeral artifacts and amulets -- often gemstones and precious metals -- placed with the dead to give them luck and protect them in the afterlife, White said.

"While Annie was anonymous, she was treated with utmost respect and prestige because she was found floating in the Nile, which was considered a sacred thing," Caston said. "Someone went to great expense to have her mummified and to build an ornate coffin."

While Egyptian rulers have been given much attention in exhibits worldwide, the Mayborn exhibit is special because it gives visitors insight into "99.9 percent of the people's lives in Egypt -- not just famous pharaohs such as King Tut," Caston said. "We have a tendency to focus on the exception to the rule, but that skews history."

Today's exploration is very different from treasure hunting of the late 1800s, before the birth of the science of archeology. In those times, thieves dug into sites to search for jewels and precious stones, making no attempt to safeguard the sites for their historical and scientific value, White said.

Archeologists have turned up surprises, he said. One is that many people who built the pyramids appear to have been well-treated, despite the stereotype that they were forced laborers.

"Maybe there were some that were slaves, but there were a lot that volunteered," he said. "Tomb workers were somewhat like platoons, living in barracks of about 40 people." They received medical treatment when necessary, and "they ate meat every day, gardened, made pots," he said. "In that time in history, it was probably not a bad life."

Those visitors who are curious about the engineering feat of building pyramids can get a sense of it by tugging ropes to haul smaller replicas of the huge wood sleds used to haul massive blocks of stone to the construction sites. On a smaller scale, they can gaze at a glass-encased miniature pyramid and adjusting a dial to simulate blowing desert sand. Or they can test their own skills by building a miniature pyramid or assembling pottery shards.

A video about the spiritual life of Egyptians will be shown in a "temple" flanked by flaming torches. And anyone with a hankering to do so may climb onto a fiber-and-steel replica of a kneeling camel named Sarah and have their photos taken with her.

Museum articles are on loan from the Brooklyn Museum in New York and The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Baylor University's Mayborn Museum Complex, 1300 S. University Parks Drive.

A special price of $5 per person will be offered Saturday, May 28, through Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day). Cost after those dates (which includes admission to all Mayborn exhibits and activities) is $10; $9 for senior citizens; and $5 for children. The exhibition is free to Mayborn Museum members and Baylor students; and to other college and university students with a valid ID.

For more information, call (254) 710-1104 or visit www.maybornmuseum.com

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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